Tuesday, April 26, 2011

OFFICE GOLF

When the company grew to it's peak in the early eighties, it could no longer be housed in the corporate headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri.  They began spreading out into other buildings in the Byram's Ford Industrial Park.  The company eventually was spread out over five buildings and we still needed more room and so began the search for another building to house the engineering department that I was a member of.

The building that they leased was in downtown Kansas City , Kansas about twenty miles away from the corporate headquarters.  It would be six years of hard work and fun times spent away from corporate until the company shrank back to a size where they could pull all of us back into Byram's Ford.

We named the building the Gorup Facility because the owner of the building had a furniture and electronics store in half of the building.  This would come in handy having Mr. Gorup next to us when we needed a television for the first Shuttle launch among other historic events.

It was almost like a completely separate company.  We had our own purchasing department, our own documentation department, a machine shop and assembly area.  The Vice President in charge of our department, Leroy, was there and served as executive officer for all practical purposes.  The President of the company would come over from the headquarters once a year.  Every Christmas he would make the trek over to Kansas To shake our hands and wish us a Merry Christmas.  Other than that, we were pretty much on our own.

Leroy was a fun loving boss and as long as we were able to complete our jobs on time he pretty much left us alone.  Being left alone and being so far away from the big boss made for some fun opportunities and we decided to take advantage of the situation.

Dennis and I had the best imaginations when it came to keeping moral up than anyone else at Gorup.  We put our last names together and came up with Purdark Productions.  It was Purdark Productions whose job it was to keep the troops entertained while we were stuck driving in from the suburbs every day through all kinds of construction and weather into the downtown loop area.  It wasn't a bad neighborhood.  It was an old Russian/Polish area of Orthodox Jews called Strawberry Hill.  Lots of great little diners, mom and pop joints where the food was fantastic.  There were bars that dotted the downtown area of Kansas City, Kansas along with some strip joints that had ties to the mob.  If there was any doubt about the mob running the strip joints it was cleared up one day when a car blew up outside one of them.

It was in the darkest days of an extreme winter that Purdark Productions made it's biggest splash.  Dennis and I decided to hold a weekly golf tournament in the building.  The possibilities were endless.  We had two and a half floors to use, a freight elevator that would certainly come in handy not to mention all the cubicle and desk traps that were naturally laid out in the building.  We figured that we could get a few guys in the engineering department that we played golf with during the summer and hold three day tournaments that would encompass Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  All we needed was the right tools to hold the tournament.

We headed to the local thrift store one snowy afternoon and began to shop.  I found an old battered up putter for a dollar.  Dennis found an indoor practice golf hole that was electric and would pop the ball back out after you got the ball in the hole.  Now it was time to lay out the course.

We figured we had to have three different holes for each weekly tournament.  We laid out the first three holes deciding to keep it all on the upper floors since they were carpeted while the lower floors were concrete.  We didn't want to take the chance of someone having the ball roll forever on concrete and end up twenty yards from the elevator.

That first tournament was a success.  We had seven participants and it took us under an hour to run everyone through a hole a day.  Bob won the first tournament with some precision putting that we didn't think was possible on the old carpet that served as our fairway.

The next week we laid out three new holes and the entry list grew to ten.  We were still able to get everyone through each hole in an hour but it was running close.  During the second week Dennis had gone to the thrift store and picked up a trophy that we decided would be a traveling trophy and sit on the desk of the winner each week with their name stenciled on it.  So we stenciled Bob's name on the trophy and when Steve took the second tournament we stenciled his name upon it.

The trophy proved to be a huge attraction.  People suddenly wanted that trophy on their desk for a week and by the third week of the tournament we had over twenty entries.  We cut the course down to two holes so that we could still run everyone through without going too far over our lunch break.  Rocky won the third one and proudly displayed the trophy down in the assembly area.

Before long the office golf tournament had become the thing to do that winter.  It had gradually grown each week.  Soon we had cut the tournament down to just one hole.  It was a long hole and a par seven to help keep the scores spread out.  In case of a tie there would be Friday to hold the playoff to determine the winner.  With over forty participants int he tournament we were stretching our time to the max.  The three day, three hole tournament had grown to a four day one hole tournament and we found ourselves slightly going past the hour allotted for lunch each day.  It was slowly getting out of control but we failed to notice that it was.  Purdark Productions job was to keep the moral up in the building and the winter of the office golf the moral was extremely high.  We began working people in on break time to give everyone a chance at the trophy.

After nine tournaments it was completely out of control.  As we started the tenth tournament we knew it was more than we could do just on break times and lunch hours but it had to be done.  The tenth tournament was a great one, possibly the best one of the series.  Dennis and myself were taking close to an hour and a half for lunch each day working solely on golf.   We had to be sure everyone was ready to "tee off" without wasting any time.  The tenth tournament was to take longer than any other.  We ended up with a five way tie and quickly set up a play off hole.  The playoff hole was as simple as it got.  About fifteen feet straight line with no hazards.  The first player to miss a shot would be out and this would continue until just one player was left.

It eventually came down to Rocky and Stu on a Friday afternoon at two thirty.  Two thirty was an hour and a half past the end of lunch but some things you just have to get done.  Rocky shot first and put the ball straight into the hole.  Stu followed by doing the same  They would each make three shots before Rocky finally pushed one off to the left and missed and took a two on his final hole.  It was up to Stu now.  Stu took his time hanging over the ball and staring at it.  He would then stare at the hole than back to the ball.  Finally Stu tapped the ball.  It was a soft tap but it looked like it might make it all the way.  People were hanging off desks to watch the golf ball slowly make it's way down the carpet.  As it approached the hole you could feel the tension being let out of all the bodies,  Stu was going to do it.  As the ball slid into the hole then popped back out Stu held the putter over his head and ran down the aisle laughing and smiling.  Stu had won the tenth tournament that we had run.

We did not know it at the time but Leroy had been keeping an eye on our lunchtime events.  He had noticed that it was taking longer and longer to complete the rounds.  He was in the room at two thirty that gray cold afternoon when Stu held the club over his head and ran laughing to pick up his trophy.  Leroy called Kevan into his office as soon as Stu was done.

Kevan was our supervisor and Leroy told him in no uncertain terms that the golf was taking too much time out of the work days.  He understood what Purdark Productions was trying to do and did not necessarily disapprove of the idea.  The time had come however to shut it down and get back on schedule as far as work was concerned.

And so Kevan came and told us the news.  The tenth tournament would be the last.  We were to put the putter away and hide the golf hole in one of our desk drawers.  It was time to come up with a new idea, which we would of course.  It is what we were good at.

The trophy sat on Stu's desk for a couple of years.  Soon the company began to shrink and layoffs began to happen.  Stu was one of the casualties of the layoffs and when he left, he took the trophy with him.  Dennis and I set about coming up with new ideas to entertain our fellow workers until Dennis became one of the casualties of the lay offs.  When that happened, Purdark Productions died.  I still had a folder of ideas, but I couldn't run with them without Dennis there with me.  That and the fact that layoffs were happening every week almost it didn't seem like a good idea to me to keep Purdark Productions too active or visible.

In both mine and Dennis' mind though, the definition of what Purdark Productions was all about was written on that raised golf club and huge smile on Stu's face in the middle of a very cold winter.

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